“Poker Game” Canine Artwork by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge Sells at Sotheby’s for $658,000

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Poker Game  Cassius Marcellus Coolidge Sothebys $658,000
The famous painting Poker Game by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge has been sold at auction for $658,000. (Image: GQ.com)

Cassius Marcellus Coolidge may not jump to mind when iconic artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo are mentioned, but one of his works of art is definitely familiar to almost every poker player.

In fact, the iconic image of four St. Bernard dogs playing poker is arguably one of the most recognizable paintings in the world, but is it really worth $650,000?

In serious art circles, the famous painting might not be considered a masterpiece, but there’s no doubt that people are intrigued and entertained in equal measure when they look at Cassius Marcellus Coolidge’s creation.

Poker Game with a Difference

Painted in 1894, Poker Game is one of Coolidge’s most famous pieces. But a look through his biography reveals a slew of similar poker-themed paintings. From Poker Sympathy and A Bold Bluff, to Pinched with Four Aces and Waterloo, Coolidge’s collection is filled with images of dogs playing poker.

Why would the American painter choose dogs and poker as his subjects? According to accounts of his life, Coolidge was a portrait painter of dogs, but after a trip to Europe, he decided to take this skill and use it to reflect the upper-class life he’d seen on his travels.

Noting the aristocracy’s love for games and gambling, Coolidge took subjects he was familiar with, dogs and poker, and combined them in a series of entertaining paintings.

Commissioned by various cigar companies to produce prints, Coolidge eventually secured a contract with the printers Brown & Bigelow, and that’s when his notoriety started to increase.

With Poker Game complete and his reputation as a master painter secured after his death, Coolidge’s paintings started to court more attention from the art world and that sent the price of his artwork skywards.

High Rolling Art Lover

The latest auction of his creations took place Sotheby’s earlier this month and when the bidding started the price quickly exceeded the $400,000 opening bid.

After being acquired by a private owner from Sotheby’s in December 2008, Poker Game had a cast-iron provenance and the bidding continued until it was finally sold for $658,000.

Not only did that figure prove that poker, however it’s depicted, is a popular pastime, but it made Poker Game the most expensive Coolidge piece of all time, beating A Bold Bluff and Waterloo by almost $100,000.

As for who the buyer was, Sotheby’s hasn’t released the details, but it’s likely the new owner is either a fan of dogs or a fan of poker, or both. Whoever it was, they shelled out a lot of biscuits for that work of art.

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